Photographing Reflections: 3 Tips Plus Stunning Examples for Creative Inspiration


Photographing reflections creates a visionary dimension. When we think of a typical reflection, it may be a majestic mountain mirrored in a still, non-moving, crystal blue lake. Such images are absolutely breathtaking. They are filled with artistry, color, detail and mood.

Photographing reflections also crosses wildlife, street, indoor and other venues. The following tips include: 1) where to find reflections 2) photography techniques & tools, and 3) creativity.

1. Finding Reflections

Reflections can be found in many places on different surfaces as illustrated below:

Glass windows – store windows in a busy city, airport windows, resorts

Photo by Ishai Parasol

Surfaces that are highly polished – silver pitcher on a dinner table, cars, lacquered furniture, silverware

Photo by Peddhapati

Mirrors – mirrors that are in multiple pieces, not necessarily a solid piece of glass, ceilings in restaurants, mirrored glass buildings

pool reflection
Photo by Rupter Ganzer

Puddles of water, shallow pools – small, standing puddles after a power shower, tide pools with water ripples from the wind

Winter puddle
Photo by Chany Crystal

Eyes – Eyes can often show some stunning reflections

2. Photography Techniques & Tools

Reflections may be a replica of the actual image. Other reflections may be abstract, creating a sense of movement, energy or aloneness. From depth of field to use of tools, small adjustments make an impact.

Alone in Teal
Photo by Chad McDonald

Focal point & depth of field: There are multiple choices in determining the focal point. This could include the subject, the subject and it's reflection or just the reflection. Choosing which one to use along with the depth of field will determine where the eye will be led. Take your time in exploring multiple focal points and depth of field.

Lighting: Use available, natural light versus flash to maximize the moment. Natural light also prevents distracting flash spots. Depending on the situation, the f/stop may need to be lowered (to f/2.8) and/or ISO may need to be raised to increase the shutter speed when shooting in low light.

Circular polarizing filter: The amount and intensity of the reflection can be controlled by rotating the circular polarizing filter. In keeping with the creative theme, sometimes the highlights may be the story and they should be left in. In other situations, highlights may need to be minimized. To know more, read our recent article on Circular Polarizing Filters.

Tripod and Cable Release: In addition to producing images with higher quality clarity, these tools are necessities in taking advantage of reflections in long exposure, low light and night settings.

3. Creativity – Turning the Reflection to Art

Reflections surround us all day, beginning with the time we rise in the morning and face that first glance in the mirror. We pass many stunning reflections in our daily routines that often go unnoticed.

Finding reflections may require a bit of intentional searching. This is the time to take out your ‘walk around lens of choice' and look for inspiration.

If you're a wildlife photographer, it could be a bird with it's bill tipping the water's surface. If flowers are your passion, explore what's being reflected in the water droplets. If street photography is your primary interest, look for unique reflections in water puddles and windows.

Rule of Thirds, and Symmetry

With reflection photography, symmetry plays a huge role in the success of an image. One reflection that is completely symmetrical can be as creative and interesting as one that is asymmetrical. Try the focus point or break line right in the middle of the frame. Then move to the traditional rule of thirds, or create your own rules for the situation.

Gougane Barra Reflection
Photo by Mozzercork

Texture and movement

Artistry of the reflection may not be the image itself but the feeling it evoked. Reflections of blur, ripples and bokeh may be the subject.

Photo by Kevin Dooley

Keep it Simple… Or Not

Reflections don't need a lot of accessorizing. The ‘keep it simple' philosophy readily applies to many images. However, try adding interest with effective use of blown out highlights. Take advantage of a third element, such as a shadow combined with the reflection as shown in the lotus flower below.

Ever seen a three dimensional view of a lotus flower? (Explore. Aug 23, 2009)
Photo by Nagesh Jayaraman

Grab one of your walk around lenses and go out on a ledge (not literally). Search for reflections of subjects outside of your comfort zone. Wildlife photographers, take it to the streets and vice-versa. Or, simply stop and observe the normal sites you pass each day. Inspiration may enfold the moment you step outside.

About Author

Sheen Watkins is a conservationist, wildlife photographer, instructor, author and photography writer. You can follow her photography on Facebook, Instagram and her website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *